Mentors are experienced and trusted advisors. Mentors are trusted counselors and coaches. Mentors convey knowledge. Mentors are ethical. Mentors are not supervisors. Mentors do not fund projects. Mentors do not oversee your work. Mentors do not have to be famous. Mentors can be older or younger than you. Mentors might be found at a lower social or work status than you. Mentors might be friends or strangers. How do you find the right mentor for you?
Before you select a mentor, you must know what you expect to accomplish. You are looking for a good relationship with someone who will challenge your thought processes and beliefs.
First, seek mentors from the group of people you already know. Search for mentors who are professionals and experts in their fields. These people might be in your sphere of influence at work, or from a professional organization, or from your church. Study their accomplishments. You are looking for a good balance between what you know and what to do, and what they can do to meet your requirements.
Your mentor must be a good listener and role model. Your mentor must level with you at all times. You want honesty and constructive criticism. Some mentors have better tact than others. Make sure you can work well with your mentor’s personality.
Your mentor should be a good sounding board for you to discuss your problems. Everyone learns from mistakes. Talk to your potential mentors about the lessons learned during their careers – what did they learn and how did those lessons affect their lives. The best mentor is one who wants to know you as well, or better than you know your mentor.
Your desire is to get to the next level in your career or profession. Seek mentors with not only the knowledge to get you there, but also the contacts and networks to help you prove yourself at the next level. Some mentors are good at their level of expertise, but once you master it, you want to continue to improve. The mentor you select today may be great for the next year or two, but realize that you might need another mentor down the road.
Evaluate how responsive your mentor can be to your time constraints. Sometimes you may need timely advice. If your mentor is too busy, or difficult to reach on a regular basis, then this must be a factor in your final decision. If your mentor prefers to communicate by e-mail and you prefer to communicate by telephone, then you need to defer to the preferred method of communication of your mentor. Your mentor is works with you – not for you.
Sometimes it makes sense to select a group mentoring option rather than choosing an individual mentor. The interaction of your peers might provide more value at a particular stage in your career. Mastermind groups are excellent for this option.
Potential mentors are not always going to accept your invitation. Approach your potential mentor professionally. Ask a mutual friend for an introduction, if possible. Prepare a letter of introduction explaining what you want to accomplish and how you view your mentor relationship. Outline your concerns, needs, expectations and barriers as briefly as possible. Don’t hesitate to ask in person or over the telephone.
Potential mentors are honored and flattered to be asked to become a mentor, but their schedules doesn’t always allow for a mentor-mentee relationship at the time you ask. If you find a great one that can’t help you now, determine if it is possible to have them reconsider your request in the future.
A good mentor will blast your career or aspirations to a new level. Your responsibility to your mentor is actually greater than the mentor-mentee relationship. You are in the learning mode and your mentor is in the teaching mode. You are on your own schedule – your mentor has many others commitments that must be addressed and balanced in addition to yours. Be more professional to your mentor to have a successful mentor-mentee relationship.